Psychological toll of shame in military personnel

Feelings of shame may make the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) more severe in current and former members of the Armed Services.

That is the conclusion of research published in the British Journal of Clinical Psychology by a team led by Dr Katherine C. Cunningham from the Department of Veterans Affairs Mid-Atlantic Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Center, Durham, North Carolina.

In the forthcoming article, Dr Cunningham and colleagues say, “The military conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have resulted in increased awareness of the impact of war on military service members. Many returning service members and veterans have been diagnosed with PTSD, which is associated with poorer physical health, unemployment, legal problems, relationship conflict and reduced quality of life.”

Full story at Science Daily

Predicting depression and PTSD before deployment could help soldiers cope

A set of validated, self-reported questions administered early in a soldier’s career could predict mental health problems such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after return from deployment, according to a study published in the open access journal BMC Psychology.

The questions assess 14 psychological attributes such as adaptability, coping ability and optimism. They could be used to identify high-risk individuals and provide them with psychological and social resources to help them cope with stressors of deployment including combat trauma and extended separation from friends and family, researchers at Naval Postgraduate School and Research Facilitation Laboratory, USA suggest.

In addition to scoring psychological health attributes before deployment, the researchers also generated an individual, composite risk score for each soldier using baseline psychological attributes and demographic information such as gender, age, race/ethnicity, marital status, education, and military occupation group. They found that out of those whose score classified them as being at highest risk for psychological health disorders (i.e. at the top 5% of the score), 31% screened positive for depression, while 27% screened positive for PTSD after return from deployment.

Full story at Science Daily

Certain characteristics linked with ISIS anxiety

A new study examines the characteristics of individuals who are most likely to have anxiety concerning threats posed by ISIS.

In the study of 1007 adult Israelis, being female, having a lower socio-economic status, and having elevated levels of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms were related to ISIS anxiety. Exposure to ISIS in the media and having low resilience were also linked to ISIS anxiety. Finally, the PTD-ISIS relationship was especially pronounced when the mental resources of resilience and optimism were low. Resilienceis defined mainly as a resource aimed at dealing with a current threat, while optimism is defined as a resource related to future outcomes.

Full story of characteristics linked to ISIS anxiety at Science Daily

Stressed-out rats consume more alcohol, revealing related brain chemistry

Stress, defined broadly, is a well-known risk factor for later alcohol abuse; however, the brain chemistry underlying interactions between stress and alcohol remain largely unknown. Reinforcement of addictive substance use and stress signaling involves common neural systems, including the brain reward center. Better understanding the brain chemistry involved in stress and increased alcohol consumption could have implications for getting to the root of such disorders as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

A team led by John Dani, PhD, chair of the department of Neuroscience in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, found that rodents that had been exposed to stress had a weakened alcohol-induced dopamine response and voluntarily drank more alcohol compared to controls. The blunted dopamine signaling to ethanol arose due to changes in the circuitry in the ventral tegmental area, the heart of the brain’s reward system. The team published their findings in Neuron.

Full story of stress and alcohol consumption at Science Daily

Miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy may trigger post-traumatic stress disorder

Women may be at risk of post-traumatic stress disorder following a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy, suggests a new study.

The team behind the research, from Imperial College London, say the findings suggest women should be routinely screened for the condition, and receive specific psychological support following pregnancy loss.

In the study, published in the journal BMJ Open, the team surveyed 113 women who had recently experienced a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy.

The majority of the women in the study had suffered a miscarriage in the first three months of pregnancy, while around 20 per cent had suffered an ectopic pregnancy, where the baby starts to grow outside of the womb.

Full story of miscarriage and post-traumatic stress disorder at Science Daily

Key brain receptor sheds light on neurological conditions, researchers say

Researchers at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus have found that a key receptor in the brain, once thought to only strengthen synapses, can also weaken them, offering new insights into the mechanisms driving depression, drug addiction and even Alzheimer’s disease.

Weakening or strengthening a synapse can have major implications both good and bad. Strengthening can sometimes be beneficial in treating Alzheimer’s while at the same time causing drug addiction and contributing to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in other cases.

For years, scientists believed that a special calcium permeable subtype of AMPA-type glutamate receptor only strengthened synapses, which send signals between brain cells. But Professor Mark Dell’Acqua, vice-chair of the Dept. of Pharmacology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, and his team of researchers found that it also weakened synapses.

Full story of brain receptor and neurological conditions at Science Daily

Predictors of depression, PTSD among African-Americans, Latinos

Chronic disease and mental health issues disproportionately affect low-income African-Americans, Latinos and Hispanics, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Two new studies by the UCLA Center for Culture, Trauma and Mental Health Disparities shed light on the causes and impacts of this disparity.

The first study, published online by the journal Psychological Trauma, analyzed certain types of negative experiences that may affect low-income African-Americans and Latinos. It found five specific environmental factors, which the researchers call “domains,” that can predict adult depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

In the second study, published online by the journal Psychological Assessment, researchers used the same five domains to develop a new screening tool for use in clinical settings. The UCLA Life Adversities Screener, or LADS, is a brief questionnaire that can help providers offer more accurate treatment for stress and trauma.

Full story of predictors of depression at Science Daily